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“LDS Scene,” Ensign, June 2000, 77–79

LDS Scene

BYU—Hawaii Students Help Restore a Tradition

Four hundred students of the BYU—Hawaii First Stake spent a recent Saturday knee-deep in mud as they cleared irrigation canals for a native Hawaiian community in Oahu’s Kahana Valley.

For centuries, residents of the valley used the canals for traditional Hawaiian taro cultivation, but in the past century the canals had become clogged because they were not used and maintained. By clearing the canals, students helped make it possible for the community to cultivate the taro again and revive this centuries-old tradition.

Kahana Valley residents were amazed by the students’ work and their willingness to serve. “The work done by the students on one Saturday would have taken us over a year to do on our own,” said Ron Johnson, a local resident.

Another group of students from the same stake worked at the site of one of the first Latter-day Saint chapels in Hawaii. They built steps up the hillside that leads to the chapel and also cleaned a neighboring graveyard where several early Hawaiian Saints are buried.

The students performed the service in commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Church’s establishment in Hawaii. As part of a yearlong celebration, each stake in Hawaii has committed to giving at least 150 hours of community service during the year 2000.

Other events scheduled for the sesquicentennial celebration include special firesides; a pageant dramatizing the establishment of the Church in Hawaii; and a concert performed by the BYU—Hawaii Concert Choir, the Honolulu Symphony, and a choir of 400 members from the island of Oahu.

Church Helps Sponsor Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibition

The Church has joined with other organizations in sponsoring a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition in Chicago, Illinois, that includes 15 scrolls, 5 of which have never before been exhibited outside of Israel. The exhibition, at The Field Museum, opened 10 March 2000 and continues through 11 June.

Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy, president of Brigham Young University, spoke at an opening ceremony. BYU and the university’s Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) have been working with an international team of scholars to increase understanding of the message and meaning of the scrolls.

Elder Donald L. Staheli, Second Counselor in the North America Central Area Presidency, and other community and Church representatives also attended the opening. On 12 April, more than 400 area clergy attended a private showing of the exhibition as special guests of the Church.

In conjunction with the exhibition, BYU has produced a traveling exhibit of replicas of the scrolls and other artifacts. The exhibit will be taken to Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri through 15 August. For more information, visit the FARMS Web site at www.farmsresearch.com, or call 1-800-327-6715 in the United States and Canada.

Elder Hammond Meets with Idaho Governor

Elder F. Melvin Hammond of the Seventy, President of the North America Northwest Area, presented a copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to Idaho governor Dirk Kempthorne at the state capitol in Boise early this year. The Idaho governor, concerned about the needs of youth, had sought the meeting to discuss how the Church helps children and youth face their challenges. The topic created an opening for discussion of the proclamation, Elder Hammond said.

French Polynesia President Meets Church Leaders

The president of the territory of French Polynesia, the vice president, and several government ministers met with the president of the Tahiti Papeete Mission and local stake and district leaders during a dinner at the mission home in January.

Both government and Church leaders spoke during the dinner, hosted by mission president Ralph T. Andersen.

French Polynesia president Gaston Flosse spoke of foreseeable changes in the country’s future that may affect youth and the family, and also work and housing for the people. He answered questions from those present about issues affecting them and their families. He called on the Latter-day Saints to pray regularly for their government leaders.

One local Church leader, President Benjamin Sinjoux of the Faaa Tahiti Stake, quoted the thirteenth Article of Faith and pointed out how the Church helps parents and helps them strengthen their families.

Each governmental representative attending the dinner was given a copy of “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and the Relief Society Declaration.

Members Contribute through “Crop Walk”

In March more than 1,000 Church members from 25 wards and branches in Austin, Texas, participated in a community walkathon to help stop hunger. “Crop Walk” helps provide food, relief supplies, refugee assistance, preventive health care, improvements in food production, and development of safe water resources in more than 80 countries. The organization also supports local agencies that serve the hungry in Austin.

Before the event, the three stake presidents in the area encouraged members to become involved in this and other community efforts.

Newspaper Sparks Family History Emphasis in Austria

In conjunction with their nation’s largest circulation newspaper, Austrian Church members have launched a major family history campaign that has brought thousands of Austrians in touch with their ancestors and with the Church.

Shortly after President Gordon B. Hinckley announced the creation of the FamilySearch™ Internet Genealogy Service in May 1999, Austrian public affairs directors Elisabeth and Fredy Pietsch suggested the story to the Neue Kronen Zeitung newspaper. The paper, which had run several articles on the Pietschs’ participation in the Mormon Pioneer Trail sesquicentennial wagon train reenactment in 1997, was receptive.

What started out as an idea for a single news story turned into a 12-article package (published on 19 September 1999) featuring family history research and a program entitled In Search of Our Roots. Through this program, readers could learn about their ancestry by writing or calling the newspaper, or by accessing the Church’s Web site through a link on the newspaper’s home page.

Several Church members experienced in family history research were asked to answer the letters and hotline calls, but they were soon overwhelmed by the response: on the first day of the program, the newspaper’s three hotlines rang continually, and within a few days, hundreds of letters were received and 200,000 hits registered on the family history link.

Church representatives responded by offering additional hotlines in seven Austrian Family History Centers and by recruiting more family history volunteers. “We’ve had 50 volunteers or more working some weeks,” says Sister Pietsch.

People requesting information were also invited to come directly to Family History Centers to do their own research. The centers were soon overflowing.

“We’ve had to change the open hours at the centers to accommodate everyone,” Sister Pietsch says.

The In Search of Our Roots program has benefited many: Austrians have learned about their roots, visitors to the Family History Centers have added thousands of names to the ancestral file, and misperceptions of the Church have been changed or softened.

“Some visitors come with misconceptions about the Church and have prejudiced feelings. But after visiting the center and talking to volunteers, they change their minds and talk very friendly about their experiences,” says Melitta Teply, supervisor of the Vienna Family History Center. “Some visitors came to stay for half an hour and ended up staying three to four hours. They come again and again.”

Although it was anticipated that the program would last just a few weeks, public interest has continued. Johanna Teml of the Vienna Third Ward says people have mentioned that they have a strong desire to know more about their ancestors, although they can’t explain why. “I could not have imagined when President Hinckley announced the FamilySearch Web site that this was the beginning of a new era in family history in Austria,” says Theresia Andruchowitz of the Vienna Fifth Ward, Vienna Austria Stake.

Family History Fair

A family history fair sponsored by two Mesa, Arizona, stakes early this year drew more than 1,400 Church members and guests and was covered in a brief news story on the local ABC television network affiliate.

Sponsored by the Mesa Arizona East and Mesa Arizona Mountain View Stakes, the fair offered 50 sessions during the Saturday on which it was held. Presenters of individual sessions covered more than 30 family history topics during the day, and there were 22 computers with the FamilySearch™ software available for use by visitors.

Australian Stake Assists Hospital

A benefit concert sponsored by the Newcastle Australia Stake in 1999 helped purchase needed equipment for the neonatal intensive care unit of a local children’s hospital, and the stake was recently honored for its efforts. Proceeds from the concert, a performance by the BYU—Hawaii Jazz Ensemble, went to the John Hunter Children’s Hospital to help pay for equipment that would allow doctors to examine premature babies in their cribs rather than transporting them elsewhere, which is risky. The president of the hospital’s volunteer auxiliary organization presented the stake an engraved plaque in recognition of its assistance.

Latter-day Saints Support Interfaith Concert

Many local Latter-day Saints were among organizers, performers, and support staff for a recent interfaith concert in Pueblo, Colorado, that drew an audience of about 1,500 from the community.

The Common Chords Interfaith Choir, with a number of Latter-day Saint singers in its ranks, offered the major portion of the concert, singing sacred and patriotic music that included the Church hymn “I Believe in Christ” (Hymns, no. 134). In addition to serving on the steering committee and in other support roles, members helped staff the event. LDS young men helped with directing parking, collecting donations, and cleaning up afterwards, while Relief Society sisters helped provide refreshments.

U.S. Army Develops Portable Chapel

The United States Army has developed a portable “containerized chapel” that enables soldiers stationed for long periods in remote locations to worship in relative comfort. The chapels are equipped to serve members of a variety of denominations, including Latter-day Saints. The new containerized chapels, which fit into an 8-by-20-foot container and weigh 16,000 pounds, can be set up within a day. Each includes a tent with a capacity of up to 100 people, folding chairs, lights, and generator-powered heat and air-conditioning. Also included are footlockers containing religious items such as copies of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Muslim prayer mats, Jewish prayer shawls, and crosses. Prototypes of the chapel have been used in Kosovo since September 1999. A similar chapel has been developed by the U.S. Air Force.

BYU—Hawaii students help clear an irrigation canal as part of a community service project celebrating the Church’s sesquicentennial in Hawaii. (Photo by Wally Barrus.)

Dead Sea Scrolls are of interest to students of the scriptures worldwide. (Photo courtesy of FARMS.)

More than 1,000 Church members from the three Austin, Texas, stakes teamed up with others in the community to raise funds for the needy. (Photo by Ron Nielsen.)